In many cities, watching documentaries or independent films means sitting in a university lecture hall or a decrepit movie house. Ithaca used to be no exception. But in June 2009 the nonprofit independent movie theater Cinemapolis moved to a new five-screen space and really polished up their look—a true revamp from the underground, two-screen theater that had been located in an alleyway in downtown since 1986.
Cinemapolis features short films, independent films, and documentaries. Yet independent doesn’t always mean obscure. The theater showed Oscar-winning films Crazy Heart and Precious.
Lynne Cohen, cofounder of Cinemapolis, is passionate about independent films. “The way Hollywood films are made is not so conducive to individuals’ expression,” she says. “It’s more conducive to groups of businesspeople deciding what’s going to sell. Showing independent films is important because it’s where individuals express themselves and reach out to viewers.”
Siobhan Cavanagh ’12 loves Cinemapolis, not only for the movies but for the community conversation series. “It is nice to see a film and discuss it with other people who are also thinking critically about the film,” says Cavanagh. “You get perspectives from people who are different ages, in different social situations, and are different nationalities.” Leading these discussions are experts, often Ithaca College or Cornell University professors, and sometimes even the film’s producers or directors.
Another draw is Cinemapolis’s nontraditional refreshment stand. Sure, they serve candy and soda, but the popcorn is made with real butter, and you can add extras like Parmesan cheese or curry powder. Plus, they serve Purity ice cream, a local favorite, and homemade desserts such as brownies and sherry cake.
But it’s the peaceful, cozy, inviting atmosphere that makes the new Cinemapolis so special. “It is more intimate and feels much more familiar,” Cavanagh says. “Big theaters lose that and often feel very detached. Cinemapolis has an Ithaca atmosphere—that artsy, indie, grassroots feeling.”
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